Sunday, July 08, 2007

Accepting the Unacceptable

Acts 15:8 God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. NIV

When I was at High school, I worked in a store that sold both work clothes and fashion items. It was owned by a Jewish family, the Freedmans, who had been in the business for a very long time. Mrs. Freedman, who was widowed, and her eldest son, Joe, ran the store. My job was to initially look after the stock, wash the floors, and lift the heavy wire grates from off the windows first thing in the morning. At the end of the day, I had to re-mop the floors, tidy the stock, and put the grates back on the windows.

Eventually, I also got to sell items to customers and discovered that I had a knack for making sales. The Freedmans were good people to work for; they believed in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Mrs. Freedman taught me a lot about dealing with people, especially difficult or fussy customers. Much of what she impressed upon me has helped me throughout my years of ministry.

She also taught me about Judaism and engendered a great love of things Jewish within me. When I went to university to become a minister, she was delighted. And when I let her know that I was studying Hebrew, she was ecstatic. It was almost as if I was the son who became a Rabbi that she never had. Her acceptance of me as a teenager and her respect for me as a minister were two gifts that I will always cherish.

Our denominational church is deeply troubled and divided right now. There seems to be an atmosphere of antagonism and intolerance on both sides of the ordination debate. Each side claims to be right. Each oppose the other vehemently. Acceptance is unacceptable. Toleration is intolerable.

It seems to me that Peter faced the same kind of issues way back in the past. Some of the Jewish Christians wanted the Gentile Christians to follow their own traditions. But Peter spoke out against intolerance and expressed a great truth that we seem to have forgotten: God, who knows the heart, may be more accepting of others than we are.

It is my fervent prayer that God grant our church the gift of discernment, that is the ability to know, understand, and accept these things according to His ways, and not our own.

Prayer: Lord God, the church has always struggled with itself, but throughout the ages You have given guidance about who or what is acceptable to You. During these restless days, grant us Peter’s courage to declare that where there is evidence of Your Spirit, there is acceptance by You. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.

Stushie writes the daily blog "Heaven's Highway" which is listed at the right hand of this page.